41-A District Courts: 2 Courts Cover 108 Square Miles of Macomb County
The 41-A District Court corridor encompasses the cities of Sterling Heights, Utica, Shelby Township and Macomb Township. These areas are in a period of strong economic growth and expansion. In these areas you will find industry, major retail shopping centers, Jimmy Johns Field, 7 Class A high schools, numerous bars and restaurants. In this area you will also find the M-53 Expressway, Hall Road and other major roads which handle a massive amount of local, commuter and connector traffic. These areas have a reputation for being safe places to live and visit. However, the 41-A District Courts cover a huge area, growing population and a high volume of criminal, drunk driving and traffic matters on their dockets as I will discuss in this publication.
MACOMB COUNTY DISTRICT COURT MAP
STERLING HEIGHTS DIVISION: 41-A District: 40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan 48313: The Sterling Heights Division of the 41-A District Court covers an area of 36 square miles with its borders from 14 Mile Road to Hall Road, and its east to west borders from Hayes to Dequindre Road. According to 2010 census records, the City of Sterling Heights has a population of approximately 130,00. The Sterling Heights court docket is managed by 3 elected judges. The Honorable Michael S. Maceroni, Stephen P. Sierawski and Kimberly A. Wiegand have long held these positions.
SHELBY TOWNSHIP DIVISION: 41-A District Court: 51660 Van Dyke, Shelby Township, Michigan 48316: The Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court also covers a 72 square mile area with jurisdiction over criminal, drunk driving and traffic cases that occur within Shelby Township, Macomb Township and the City of Utica. Shelby Township and Utica have their own police departments. Macomb Township utilizes the Macomb County Sheriff Department to patrol its roads and provide law enforcement services. There is only 1 elected judge appropriated to the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District which encompasses jurisdiction over a population of approximately 160,000. This is somewhat of an anomaly given the fact that 3 judges are assigned to the Sterling Heights Division which has a significantly lesser population and is half the size geographically. The Honorable Douglas P. Shepherd presides over the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court. A new court building, which is long overdue, has been recently approved for the Shelby Township Division of the 41-A District Court.
Criminal Cases in the 41-A District Courts: Provisions of Law to Get Dismissals Available!
Our firm has represented clients charged with just about every imaginable misdemeanor and felony crime in the 41-A District Courts. The following is list of some of the most prevalent cases that we regularly see on the 41-A District Courts dockets in both Sterling Heights and Shelby Divisions:
Getting out on bond, bond conditions: If you are arrested or arraigned on a criminal matter in the 41- A District Courts, you will appear either before a magistrate or judge. Insofar as possible, it is always advisable to have an attorney present for arraignment purposes. An attorney can make a considerable difference at arraignment by advocating for a personal bond (where no money needs to be posted) or a for a low cash/10% bond arrangement. Most judges will listen to an attorney’s remarks regarding bond which can save potentially thousands of dollars that a bondsman would otherwise take. In addition to the cash component of bond, the Court can also impose bond conditions upon a person’s release from jail. Drug and alcohol testing are common bond conditions for those charged with any crime involving drugs or alcohol. A ‘no-contact order‘ is assured in assault cases, domestic violence, sex crimes and all other crimes involving a victim. In retail fraud cases, the accused party may be instructed to refrain from entering the establishment where the alleged shoplifting occurred. A motion for a hearing can always be filed to modify bond conditions, remove a no-contact order or eliminate travel restrictions.
Misdemeanor or Felony Classification: In Michigan, the district courts have full jurisdiction to dispose of misdemeanors through sentencing. A misdemeanor is classified as an offense that carries up to 1 year in jail. Felony cases are another matter. A felony is classified as a crime that can carry more than 1 year in jail. A felony case is initiated in the district court for the arraignment, probable cause conference and preliminary examination. A felony that is not resolved in the district court will be moved to the circuit court for further proceedings. In certain cases, a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor and can remain in the district court. Accomplishing reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor, thus avoiding a felony conviction, is considered a huge victory.
The outcome of a criminal case in the 41-A District Courts, as well as other Macomb County District Courts, is dependent upon many components. The most significant factors that can have a bearing on a case are:
- The prior criminal history of the accused party.
- Whether another party was injured or property was damaged.
- Whether the accused party can provide restitution for damages to the injured party.
- Whether the offense is a ‘policy case’ (crimes against senior citizens, children).
In our experience, criminal cases can be resolved favorably at the 41-A District Courts. Whenever possible, the judges in both divisions will accept dispositions to allow an offender the opportunity to get a dismissal under these special provisions of law: HYTA for youthful offenders (age 17 to 23), MCL 333.7411 for first time drug offenders and MCL 769.a for domestic violence. The court will also utilize a provision of law known as a deferral or delayed sentence which allows an offender leniency or a dismissal after a period of probation. Even individuals that have a prior criminal record will be given respect and consideration for plea deals to get a dismissal under certain circumstances.
Drunk Driving Cases in the 41-A District Courts: 215 DUI cases in 2016
Hall Road (M-59), M-53, Van Dyke, Dequindre, Schoenherr and Hayes are just a few of the major roads that are within the 108 square miles of the 41-A District Court’s territory. Statistics for 2016 reveal a high number of drunk driving arrests in this region with approximately 170 arrests in Shelby Township, 60 arrests in Utica and 193 arrests in Sterling Heights. Over 120 of the test results in Shelby Township and Sterling Heights alone registered a blood alcohol content of .17 or greater to support a charge of ‘Super DUI‘ or ‘OWI with a high BAC’.
APPROXIMATE BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT (BAC) CHART
1st offense drinking and driving: For most first time drinking and driving offenders, jail is not likely absent some other aggravating circumstances in the 38th and 39th District Courts. A person without any prior drinking and driving offenses can expect to get an OWI reduced to ‘operating while impaired’. It is extremely difficult and rare, but not impossible, to get a drinking and driving offense reduced to a non-criminal offense. In addition to probation, a person convicted for a first drinking and driving offense (operating while impaired) is looking at:
- Probation for 1 year or less
- Fines and costs approximately $1,200.00
- Restricted license for 90 days
- Attend an alcohol or substance abuse program (discretionary)
- Possible drug testing, alcohol testing, AA meetings (discretionary)
- 4 points on driving record
Super Drunk Driving: If a person is charged with Super DUI (BAC .17 or greater) a deviation may need to be filed to get a plea bargain to a lower offense. Super DUI convictions will result in mandatory license suspension for 45 days followed by a restricted license for a period of 320 days with the requirement of a vehicle breathalyzer ignition interlock device (BAIID). The Court can also order installation of an ignition interlock system on any vehicle driven by a person convicted of any drinking and driving offense.
Repeat DUI Offender: A repeat drinking and driving offender may be looking at a longer period of probation, up to 2 years, with the possibility of some jail time. There are many steps that we can recommend to those charged with a repeat offense to reduce the likelihood of incarceration in almost every Macomb County court.
Third Lifetime DUI = Felony: DUI 3rd is a felony/with a maximum penalty of 1-5 years in prison. Felony matters begin in the district court and can remain in the district court for purpose of sentencing and probation if reduced to a misdemeanor. Felonies that are not resolved in the district court are handled in the Circuit Court after the probable cause conference or preliminary examination. We evaluate every DUI 3rd for opportunities to get it reduced to a misdemeanor by filing strategic legal motions, negotiations and filing a deviation request.
The 41-A District Court Probation Department: 40111 Dodge Park, Sterling Heights, Michigan 48313
The 41-A District Courts share the probation department located at the Sterling Heights Division. I expect the Shelby Township Division to have its own probation department once the new court building is up and running.
It is within the judge’s discretion whether or not to place an individual on probation after being convicted of a criminal or drunk driving offense. In many cases that qualify as isolated incidents, we may be able to convince the judge that probation, also known as community supervision, is not necessary. When probation is imposed, the judge may require reporting or non-reporting probation. The maximum period of probation that can be imposed in the district courts is 2 years. However, our experience is that probation is rarely imposed for more than 1 year for most first time offenders.
Traffic Violations in the 41-A District Court: Reduced to Avoid Points and Record of any Conviction!
The Sterling Heights Police, Shelby Township Police, Utica Police, Macomb County Sheriff Department and Michigan State Police all have an active presence monitoring the activity of vehicular traffic within the 108 square miles of the 41-A District Courts. Similar to other districts, I would say that traffic tickets are on the top of the list of cases that are litigated at the 41-A District Court.
Shelby Township, Utica, Macomb Township and Sterling Heights share roads with the heavy traffic volume in Macomb County
When resolving a traffic matter in the 41-A District Courts, we are often able to negotiate a reduction or avoid points. A substantial reduction in a traffic ticket occurs when it is reduced to an offense such as impeding traffic or double parking. A traffic ticket that is reduced to impeding traffic or double parking does not carry any points and will never appear on a person’s driving record! We are also able to get favorable results for individuals charged with misdemeanor traffic offenses such as driving while suspended, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.
Court Personnel are Forbidden to Give Legal Advice: Yet most courts are making it easier than ever to just pay your traffic ticket by visiting the court’s website and giving offenders the convenient option to pay by credit card. What they won’t tell you on their website is that you will get points on your driving record and that you may will wind up with higher insurance premiums for several years. Unfortunately, most individuals that receive a traffic ticket do not hire a lawyer. The path of least resistance, paying the ticket, can be much costlier in the long run.
Link to Sterling Heights Points and Fine Schedule
Link to Shelby Township Points and Fine Schedule